the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

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The White House
Office of the First Lady
For Immediate Release

Remarks by the First Lady at a Coast Guard Gulf Coast Oil Spill Briefing in Pascagoula, Mississippi

Pascagoula, Mississippi

9:40 A.M. CDT

MRS. OBAMA:  I am pleased and honored to be here in Pascagoula and back in Mississippi.  My first visit was to Jackson, and the Governor and the First Lady were so warm and gracious, and our time at that school I’ll never forget.  So I’m glad to be back.

And I want to thank the leaders here of Pascagoula for giving me such a warm welcome.  I’m delighted to be here.  I’m here for a couple of reasons.  Later on today, I have the honor of christening a U.S. Coast Guard cutter, the Stratton, named after Captain Dorothy Stratton, one of the finest women in uniform, and I’m very excited and honored to do that.  I think I’m the first First Lady to christen a U.S. Coast Guard cutter ship.

MRS. BARBOUR:  You are, in the history of the U.S.A.

MRS. OBAMA:  So I just hope that I don’t break anything other than that bottle -- (laughter) -- later today.

MRS. BARBOUR:  But break it.

MRS. OBAMA:  But I’m going to break it!  (Laughter.)  I was in the pitcher’s mound throwing a few days ago, so I think my arm is warmed up.

But I’m also here because I wanted to get a better sense of how things are going here around the spill, and I also wanted to highlight and just sort of thank all of our U.S. Coast Guardsmen and women for their service.  I mean, this has been a tough row to hoe.  This has been a difficult assignment on so many levels.  But it’s so important for the country to know that you all were the first folks on the ground, and you have been here from the very beginning -- I understand working nonstop for 12- to 16-hour days. 

And it’s important for the country to realize that many U.S. Coast Guardsmen and women are reservists, which means that they were out there living their lives and got the call to be deployed, and they’ve been away from their families for months now.  And I now that there are some difficulties in that as well.

But we are grateful to you all for the work that you’ve done.  You’ve done just a tremendous job in responding and keeping the outcomes of this crisis limited.  And we’re just proud and grateful.

So I want to make sure that our country knows that you all are doing a phenomenal job, and you’re doing it while you’re sacrificing -- your families are sacrificing as well.

So I want to get a good sense of how things are going, not just with the efforts here but also how things are going for you and your families.

So I want this to be a broader conversation.  I want to know about the spill, about the challenges, what I can take back to the President, to the administration. 

But I also want to get a sense of some of the challenges that you’re facing and things we can do.  As you know, I’ve made supporting military families one of my top priorities, and it’s important for me to know how things are going and what we can do to highlight and to shed light and to help provide some support to you and your families and to do a better job of it.  So I want this conversation to be twofold.

And finally, I just want to make sure that the people in the Gulf, not just here in Pascagoula but throughout the state of Mississippi and all across the Gulf, people should know that this administration has done a great job in response, but they know that our work is not over yet.  We’ve gotten some good news -- the spill has been contained.  The cleanup effort is going very well, as we have all heard.  But this isn’t over yet.  And this administration is going to stand with the people of the Gulf until folks are made whole again.

9:45 A.M. CDT