LOS ANGELES (CBSDC/AP) — 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 defense 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.

Last month, Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly issued a warning during a closed-door meeting that Israel could become “an apartheid state” if a two-state solution is not reached with the Palestinians. Kerry said in a statement shortly after The Daily Beast report that he never called Israel an “apartheid state.”

Obama spoke at the 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.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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