President Barack Obama will visit the U.S. Gulf Coast on Sunday to get an update on efforts to contain the enormous oil spill along the coastline of the state of Louisiana. The president mentioned the spill in his commencement address Saturday at the University of Michigan.
White House officials say President Obama will go to the Gulf Coast early Sunday to inspect the damage from the large and spreading spill, and gauge the response.
The slick has reached the Louisiana coastline, raising fears of serious environmental damage. Experts say the oil is spreading much more quickly than was originally estimated.
The U.S. Coast Guard estimates that at least six million liters of oil have spilled in the Gulf of Mexico since an offshore rig exploded on April 20, and later sank. Eleven workers were killed.
Mr. Obama has stopped new offshore oil drilling until investigators determine what caused the accident.
The U.S. government is pressuring British Petroleum, the company that owns the rig, to do more to seal the well.
The president referred to the spill in a commencement address at the University of Michigan Saturday. He said this and the recent coal mine disaster in the Eastern state of West Virginia show that government is not always inherently bad, as some critics say. "Government is what ensures that mines adhere to safety standards and that oil spills are cleaned up by the companies that caused them," he said.
Mr. Obama spoke before a crowd estimated at 80,000, at the massive football stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
He attacked critics who portray government as oppressive and tyrannical, saying that in a democracy, "government is us." "We know that too much government can stifle competiton and deprive us of choice and burden us with debt. But we have also clearly seen the dangers of too little government, like when lack of accountability on Wall Street nearly leads to the collapse of our entire economy," he said.
The president said angry rhetoric is damaging America's political discourse, and that overheated language can signal to extremists that "perhaps violence is…justifiable." "You can disagree with a certain policy without demonizing the person who espouses it. You can question someone's views and their judgment without questioning their motives or their patriotism," he said.
About 70 kilometers away, Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican Party vice-presidential nominee, told an anti-tax gathering Mr. Obama's policies are "big government" initiatives that are "intrusive" in Americans' lives.
The Michigan address is the first of four commencement speeches the president will give this year. He will also speak at the U.S. Military Academy, at the historically-black Hampton University in Virginia, and at a high school which will win a national contest for the honor.