Salazar hopeful Gulf coast can be restored |

Salazar hopeful Gulf coast can be restored

Protestors stand behind Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 27, 2010, as he testified before the House Interior subcommittee hearing on the ongoing response and environmental impacts on the BP oil spill on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 27, 2010. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

DENVER – Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Saturday used the Gulf of Mexico oil spill as an example of life’s unexpected challenges during a commencement speech at a Colorado high school and told students he is confident cleanup efforts will succeed.

“I am resolute and confident that America’s best days are still ahead,” Salazar told the graduating class of 75 student at Denver’s School of Science and Technology. “Some people have told me in the last 30 or 40 days that we’ve dealt with the disaster unfolding in the Gulf Coast, ‘How is it that you keep on going?’ My answer is fairly simple. I’m doing the best job I can. And I work at it every day very hard.”

Salazar, a Colorado native, told the students he would be going to Houston after the speech to monitor efforts to stop the oil that started spewing into the Gulf of Mexico when a drilling rig exploded in April. BP PLC on Saturday expressed concern that its latest operation to halt the oil leak, known as “top kill,” may not be working. The operation involves pumping heavy drilling mud into the crippled well 5,000 feet underwater.

“I would never have expected growing up here in Colorado that some day my challenges would include the challenges that I’m facing today – an oil company that is attempting to plug a leak in a well a mile below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico using robots that are being controlled from a command center in Houston,” he said.

Salazar was at the school because it was a a finalist in the Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge to have President Barack Obama deliver the commencement speech. When the school lost its bid to Kalamazoo Central High School in western Michigan, the White House promised to send an administration official instead.

The Denver school was founded in 2004, and all of its graduates since then have been accepted to four-year colleges. Of the students who attend the open-enrollment school, 45 percent come from low-income families, and 60 percent are Hispanic or African-American.

“What you have done here, at DSST, is to create a great example, to demonstrate success that can be copied not only here in Denver but to be copied all across the nation,” he said.

Salazar, a former U.S. senator, told the graduating class that they reminded him of his life growing up poor and without electricity on a farm in southern Colorado’s San Luis Valley. He assured them that they “really can arrive at the highest star that you aim for.”

Speaking to reporters after the speech, he said officials were evaluating what step to take next if the “top kill” method fails and that “best minds in the world” were figuring out how to keep the oil from spreading.

“I’m going to head to Houston and I’ll keep staying at it until it’s solved,” he said.

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