President Barack Obama concluded an 18 1/2-hour visit to the Southland today by conducting the first of the day's four fundraisers in three metropolitan areas.
Obama presided over what The Hollywood Reporter described as an intimate roundtable discussion at The Beverly Hilton, benefiting the Democratic National Committee, with a top ticket price of $32,400, the maximum amount that can be given to a party committee in a calendar year under federal law.
Obama then flew from Los Angeles International Airport aboard Air Force One to San Diego, where he spoke at a fundraiser at the La Jolla home of the billionaire Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
From San Diego, Obama flew aboard Air Force One to San Jose, where he participated in two fundraisers for the Democratic National Committee.
On Wednesday, Obama attempted to motivate donors to become involved in the midterm election, then accepted an award from an organization that seeks to keep alive memories of the Holocaust and other genocides.
After mentioning that Democrats are less likely to vote in midterm elections than presidential elections, Obama told the crowd of about 90 at the Bel Air mansion of Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn and his wife, Cindy, "My main message to all of you is feel a sense of urgency about this election."
"This is my last campaign and I'm going to put everything I've got into it, but I need you to feel that this is just important, because we can't afford to wait until 2016," Obama said.
In a speech of about 15 minutes, Obama recounted his achievements in office, including lower unemployment, increased wind and solar energy production, increased fuel efficiency, providing health insurance to those previously uninsured through the Affordable Care Act, and he contrasted positions held by Democrats and Republicans.
Tickets for the fundraiser benefiting the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee were priced between $10,000 to $32,400.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, also spoke to the crowd, which included entertainer Barbra Streisand, her actor husband James Brolin and DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg.
Following the fundraiser, Obama headed for the Century Plaza Hotel, where he received the highest honor from the USC Shoah Foundation -- The Institute for Visual History and Education, during its 20th anniversary Ambassadors for Humanity Gala.
Movie director Steven Spielberg, the foundation's founder, presented the Ambassador for Humanity Award to Obama for what organizers described as his global efforts to protect human rights, his commitment to education and expanding educational technology, and his work advancing opportunities for all people.
Spielberg established the foundation to collect and preserve the video testimonies of survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust after he completed the 1993 Oscar-winning best picture "Schindler's List." The institute is seeking to expand its Visual History Archive with accounts of other atrocities, including the Armenian and Cambodian genocides.
"The testimonies of survivors like those with us tonight also remind us that the purpose of memory is not simply to preserve the past, it is to protect the future," Obama told the crowd of approximately 1,300. "The voices of those recorded and unrecorded, those who survived and those who perished call upon us, implore us and challenge us to turn 'never forget' to 'never again."'
Obama also discussed "a rising tide of anti-Semitism around the world," including "attacks on Jews in the streets of major Western cities, public places marred by swastikas" and a shooting at a Jewish community center and nursing home in Overland Park, Kansas.
"It would be tempting to dismiss these as isolated incidents, but if the memories of the Shoah survivors teach us anything, it is that silence is evil's greatest co-conspirator," Obama said, using the Hebrew word for the Holocaust.
"It's up to us -- each of us, every one of us -- to forcefully condemn any denial of the Holocaust. It's up to us to combat not only anti-Semitism, but racism and bigotry and intolerance in all their forms, here and around the world."
Talk show host Conan O'Brien hosted the event and joked about the traffic jams caused by Obama's visits. Bruce Springsteen performed "Dancing in the Dark" and "The Promised Land."
The trip is Obama's 17th to the Los Angeles area since taking office in 2009. All but three of his trips have included political fundraisers. He has made 10 trips to the area solely for fundraising.
"Since the Clinton presidency, Los Angeles has become the principal donor base for the Democratic Party," Raphael J. Sonenshein, the executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State Los Angeles
"Thirty, 40 years ago, that would have been inconceivable because so much of the Democratic Party fundraising was on the East Coast."
Clinton "turned California into his second political home and that has pretty much continued," Sonenshein said.
--City News Service