President Obama will head to Alabama Friday morning to assess tornado damage before attending the launch of the shuttle Endeavour in Cape Canaveral and then speaking at the commencement of Miami Dade College in the evening.
The president already had a packed day scheduled for Friday with the launch and the speech at Miami-Dade, but opted yesterday afternoon to add in a trip to Tuscaloosa. Obama, along with his wife, Michelle, and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R), will meet with families affected by storms that have killed nearly 300 people throughout the South.
It will be an emotional day for Obama. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who was injured earlier this year in assassination attempt, will attend the launch as well, as her husband, Marc Kelly, is the commander of the shuttle mission. It was unclear if Giffords and Obama would watch together, as the White House indicated Thursday the president would view the launch with NASA Director Charles Bolden Jr..
The launch is at 3:47 p.m. It is the second-to-last mission for the U.S. space shuttle program, which is being ended as part of budget cuts. The final shuttle flight is scheduled for launch on June 28.
Miami Dade is a school that mainly rewards two-year degrees to its students, reflecting the administration’s interest in promoting community colleges. At the same time, more than two thirds of the school’s students are Hispanic, a key bloc as Obama starts to prepare his reelection campaign.