Remarks by the First Lady during a Briefing by Officials and Local Leaders in Panama City Beach, Florida
4:17 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Well, first of all, thank you for taking the time out of what I know are busy schedules at a busy time in your lives here to spend a little time with me, and just give me and Carol, who’s been down here several times, a better sense of what’s happening here in Panama City Beach.
This is the worst environmental disaster that our nation has seen. I mean, it is devastating in so many ways -- from an environmental standpoint, you know, my husband has talked about how our kids are just looking at what is it going to mean to the wildlife and the animals, and kids see it from that perspective. And it’s -- it hurts them to know that this oil is affecting wildlife for years to come.
But the other side of the story is the life of businesses, tourists and vacationers, who’ve really made communities like this their lifeblood and their vacation blood, in so many ways.
And we’re doing our best, the administration, to make things right, to get that thing capped, to clean it up, and to look at the long-term ramifications and view this as an opportunity to really build and preserve and make the Gulf the prize of this country that it has been and should continue to be.
So that’s the first priority of the administration is dealing with that, making sure that BP makes everyone whole. And we’ve seen some historic outcomes with regard to that -- the $20 billion fund that has been set aside, which is not a ceiling or a floor, but it’s the beginning to make sure that BP makes communities whole and invests in the cleanup and the preservation.
But the story today, since we’ve got the media here, is the piece that I think gets lost in the devastation, and it’s that there are still thousands of miles of beaches that have not been touched by the spill. And there are communities that thrive on tourism and on the economic power of beaches that have not been damaged.
And we need to get the word out to the rest of the country, particularly for those who want to find ways to help folks in the Gulf. This is one way, to recognize that there are still opportunities to experience those beautiful beaches. I mean, this is a time to remind America that some of the best beaches in the world are here. And this is probably the best time for people to bring their kids down, the best year, because you do a few things, you get to see a part of the country, you get to help an economic area, and it’s really nice and hot down here. (Laughter.) So you definitely want to swim.
And I understand, as Dan said, we flew into the new airport. It’s a beautiful facility, and Southwest now has a bunch of direct flights directly down here.
So we want to take this time just to encourage folks around the country not to miss this opportunity. It is vacation time. Folks are looking for things to do with their kids, and this would be a great opportunity to do a few things -- help this community, send a different message about the extent of the spill, and also think long term about how the rest of the country can help this economy and the folks down here.
It’s a wonderfully warm place -- that’s something that is clear just from the few little minutes I’ve been here.
PARTICIPANT: It’s hot. (Laughter.)
MRS. OBAMA: It’s not that hot. (Laughter.) It’s not hotter than D.C., let me tell you. (Laughter.) But, yes, it is hot, so if you like hot weather, this is the place to come.
But I want to hear more. Carol is here, and we can get into more of the specifics of some of the questions. There are some things I don’t know as much about as Carol. But she knows everything.
4:22 P.M. EDT