Washington: US President Barack Obama along with his younger daughter Sasha have taken a dip into the oil slick-hit waters of the Gulf Coast, sending a powerful message that the disaster-struck region is back in business.
Ending media speculation, the White House released a picture showing a smiling Obama and Sasha swimming in the Gulf waters off Alligator Point in Panama City Beach, Florida, during the first family`s 27-hour mini-vacation.
"Oil is no longer flowing into the Gulf....but, I am here to tell you that our job is not finished, and we are not going anywhere until it is," Obama said at a regional US Coast Guard headquarters.
Ahead of his visit to the region, Obama jokingly told CNN on Saturday that "I think we`re going to go tomorrow and as I just said ... I`m not going to let you guys take a picture of me with my shirt off."
"You guys will tease me just like last time. I was on the front page ... People commenting," he had said.
But just hours later, a photo was published on the White House Flickr page, showing Obama and Sasha enjoying a swim in the Gulf waters.
No reporters or press cameras were present for the swim, but the image will nonetheless send a message that the White House has sought to convey with the first family`s trip that the Gulf Coast is open for business.
Obama caused a bit of a tabloid stir when he took off his shirt to reveal a muscular physique during trips to Hawaii during the 2008 presidential campaign and subsequent presidential transition.
"There is no better symbol than the President of the United States showing us the way," said Stephen Leatherman, a professor at Florida International University in Miami who puts together an annual list of America`s best beaches.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was cagey on Friday when reporters asked whether the President would go for a swim during the first family`s mini-vacation.
"Stay tuned," said Gibbs, who grew slightly impatient after getting many queries about something as seemingly minor as a presidential swim.
"Look, he`s going to have some fun," Gibbs said. "Whether or not he gets in the water is up for clearly some debate. But, look, he will have an opportunity to enjoy ... the physical beauty of the Gulf and do some work at the same time."
This is Obama`s fifth trip to the Gulf region since the April 20 explosion at a BP oil rig sparked the massive oil spill and caused a huge environmental disaster in five American states of Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi, Texas and Alabama.