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Obama at Holocaust foundation: Recalling horrors helps protects the future

President Barack Obama, left, sits next to movie director Steven Spielberg, right, as they listen to Conan O'Brien during the USC Shoah Foundation’s 20th anniversary Ambassadors for Humanity gala in Los Angeles, Thursday, May 8, 2014. Obama received an award from the foundation created by Spielberg and is spending three days in California where he plans to raise money for the Democratic Party. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

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President Barack Obama, left, sits next to movie director Steven Spielberg, right, as they listen to Conan O'Brien during the USC Shoah Foundation’s 20th anniversary Ambassadors for Humanity gala in Los Angeles, Thursday, May 8, 2014. Obama received an award from the foundation created by Spielberg and is spending three days in California where he plans to raise money for the Democratic Party. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Saluting a Holocaust history foundation founded by Steven Spielberg, President Barack Obama said Wednesday that the purpose of memory is not simply to preserve the past but to protect the future.

Before a crowd of about 1,300, Obama offered a staunch defence of Israel.

"It's up to us to speak out against rhetoric that threatens the existence of a Jewish homeland and to sustain America's unshakable commitment to Israel's security," Obama said.

He spoke at 20th anniversary of Spielberg's USC Shoah Foundation, dedicated to gathering video testimony from survivors and other Holocaust witnesses. Obama received the foundation's Ambassador for Humanity Award at a gala event that featured a performance by Bruce Springsteen.

Obama said the devastation in Syria, murders and kidnappings in Nigeria, and tribal conflicts elsewhere in the world underscore that decades after the Holocaust, "we have not yet extinguished man's darkest impulses."

Springsteen performed two of his classics, "Promised Land" and "Dancing in the Dark," while Obama listened from a table he shared with Spielberg, host Conan O'Brien, Barbra Streisand and Liam Neeson, who played Oskar Schindler in Spielberg's Academy Award-winning "Schindler's List."

Obama's visit to Los Angeles was rewarded with a full Hollywood embrace. Earlier he attended a fundraiser hosted by Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn. Guests at that event included Streisand and her husband, actor James Brolin, and studio executive Jeffrey Katzenberg.

Obama is on a three-day visit to California, most of it devoted to fundraising for the Democratic Party.

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