President Barack Obama will go from Southern California to San Diego to Silicon Valley on the second of a three-day California swing that includes five Democratic fundraisers, though not before stopping more traffic in Los Angeles on his way out.
After a roundtable discussion Thursday morning at the Beverly Hilton to benefit the Democratic National Committee, Obama will fly to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego for an afternoon fundraiser at a private home, followed by a flight to Moffett Field near Sunnyvale for two more Democratic Party events in the San Francisco Bay Area.
This is the President's first fundraising trip to the West Coast since the Supreme Court last month lifted the cap on contributions to political parties. California is considered the political ATM for Democratic fundraisers. Because most California Democratic House seats are safe this year, and neither senators Dianne Feinstein or Barbara Boxer are up for re-election, most of the money raised here will be spent outside the Golden State.
Wednesday's night's event at the Bel-Air home of Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn had a price tag of up to $65,000, and Thursday morning's roundtable at the Beverly Hilton cost attendees around $32,000.
In a brief break from politics Wednesday night, Obama shared a table with Steven Spielberg and Bruce Springsteen at a benefit dinner in L.A., but broke away to chat with Barbra Streisand and Samuel L. Jackson.
The president was the guest of honor Wednesday at a fundraising gala celebrating the USC Shoah Foundation, which Spielberg established 20 years ago to collect video testimonies from survivors of the Holocaust and other genocides. Inspired by the making of "Schindler's List," the video archive Spielberg created now includes more than 50,000 personal accounts and is available to schools across the globe.
"As long as we fail to learn, our work will be urgent work," he said of the foundation's mission. "This institute exists because we know that the future can always be rewritten."
Obama accepted the foundation's Ambassador for Humanity award at the private event at the Century Plaza Hotel. Springsteen provided musical entertainment, tucking his black tie into his white shirt to perform two songs with his acoustic guitar.
"I think anyone who has a boss wishes it was you," Spielberg told the stalwart rocker, who sang "Promised Land" and "Dancing in the Dark." The filmmaker called Springsteen "this nation's hardest working lyrical poet for our common humanity."
Conan O'Brien hosted the event, speaking in Yiddish and teasing the President for the traffic snarls he causes when visiting L.A.
"You left Washington six hours ago, but I left Burbank seven hours ago," O'Brien joked.
Liam Neeson, who played Oskar Schindler in Spielberg's 1994 film, opened the evening.
But it was two non-famous women who left the audience most inspired. San Diego high school teacher Michelle Sadrena Clark recited a poem about how the Shoah Foundation's work enriches her curriculum and connects her students to history.
"Your institute has literally changed my teaching and my life," she said. Several of her students attended the gala, where they showed guests the multimedia projects they developed using survivor testimonies. They were also introduced to the president.
Celina Biniaz was one of the Jews Schindler saved. At 13, she worked in his factory, cleaning the machinery with her small hands. Now a grandmother whose story is included among the Holocaust testimonies, she said, "Oskar Schindler gave me my life, but Steven Spielberg gave me my voice."
Obama said that genocide survivors and the families they've created are "the ultimate rebuke to evil and the ultimate expression of love and hope."
"You are an inspiration to every single one of us," he said.