President Obama touts Hollywood’s role in defining America to the world

President Obama speaks at the DreamWorks Animation studio in Glendale on Tuesday.
President Obama speaks at the DreamWorks Animation studio in Glendale on Tuesday.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

President Obama praised the entertainment industry for shaping world culture and playing a key role in the international view of America during a speech Tuesday to about 2,000 employees at DreamWorks Animation.

“Entertainment is part of our American diplomacy,” Obama told the crowd gathered in a sunny courtyard at the animation studio’s Glendale headquarters.

“It’s part of what makes us exceptional, part of what makes us such a world power. You can go anywhere on the planet and you’ll see a kid wearing a ‘Madagascar’ T-shirt. You can say, ‘May the force be with you,’ and they know what you’re talking about.”

“The stories that we tell transmit values and ideals about tolerance and diversity and overcoming adversity and creativity that are part of our DNA,” Obama said.


While people in other countries may not know the Gettysburg Address, he added, “they’ve had a front-row seat for our march toward progress” on race relations and efforts to expand gay rights through movies and television shows like “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” and “Will and Grace.”

Obama, who attended three Democratic fundraisers on his quick, 19-hour swing through the Los Angeles area, also met privately with a group of top Hollywood executives that included CBS Corp. Chief Executive Les Moonves, Warner Bros. Chief Executive Kevin Tsujihara and NBC Universal vice chairman Ron Meyer. Earlier Tuesday he toured DreamWorks with the company’s chief executive, Jeffrey Katzenberg, one of Obama’s top donors and fundraisers.

The president told the company’s employees that the power to spread American values comes with “big responsibility.”

“When it comes to issues like gun violence, we’ve got to make sure that we’re not glorifying it, because the stories you tell shape our children’s outlook and their lives,” he said.

Obama veered back to more stock speech topics near the end of his remarks, noting what he sees as his accomplishments during five years in office, including turning around the ailing automobile industry, winding down two wars and fixing “a broken healthcare system.”

He briefly referred to glitches in the rollout of the website: “I was talking with some of the studio execs here and I said, ‘Look, the rollout of the new healthcare marketplace was rough, and nobody is more frustrated about the problems with our website than I am.’”

But Obama said his controversial healthcare law has already been a success. In California, he said, “there are thousands of people every single day who are getting healthcare for the first time ... because of this.”

He said the new law will allow employers like DreamWorks to spend less money on employee healthcare and more on hiring new staff and inventing “those cool technologies that I don’t exactly understand how they work but were really neat to look at.”


Earlier in the day, Obama got a lesson in how animators use motion capture to bring animated characters to life.

He left Los Angeles in mid-afternoon and flew to Washington, where he will spend the Thanksgiving holiday with his family.

Twitter: @katelinthicum