PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. —President Obama declared Gulf Coast beaches clean, safe and open for business Saturday as he brought his family to the Florida Panhandle and promised residents that the government wouldn't forget them once efforts to stop the leak are finished.
On a warm and muggy day, Obama pledged to "keep up our efforts until the environment is cleaned, polluters are held accountable, businesses and communities are made whole, and the people of the Gulf Coast are back on their feet."
Obama is in the region for a brief weekend trip with first lady Michelle Obama, daughter Sasha (her sister Malia is at summer camp) and the family dog, Bo. Their 27-hour stop in the Sunshine State is as much a family vacation as it is an attempt by the president to convince Americans that this region, so dependent on tourism revenue, is safe for travel — and that its surf is clean.
To reinforce that message, Obama and Sasha swam in the Gulf's waters on Saturday, according to White House spokesman Bill Burton. The highly anticipated dip was away from the media's view.
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Obama said his family planned to "enjoy the beach and the water — to let our fellow Americans know that they should come on down here."
The first family ventured to Lime's Bayside Bar & Grill, where they relaxed on an outdoor deck overlooking the water and ate lunch. After a quiet afternoon at their beachfront hotel, the Obamas headed into town for a family miniature golf outing.
Nine-year-old Sasha stole the show, making a hole in one off the first tee, much to the delight of her father, an avid golfer.
"That's how you do it!" the president exclaimed, before shooting par with his two strokes on the first hole.
Gulf Coast residents and local officials are hoping the president's stop here will jump-start the reeling tourism industry.
"It's the biggest single commercial you could imagine," Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said of the visit.