Mr. Obama spoke as he accepted the foundation's Ambassador of Humanity Award at the Century Plaza Hotel.
He told the audience of Holocaust survivors, Shoah supporters, students and Hollywood elite, "I have this remarkable title right now -- President of the United States -- and yet every day when I wake up, and I think about young girls in Nigeria or children caught up in the conflict in Syria -- when there are times in which I want to reach out and save those kids -- and having to think through what levers, what power do we have at any given moment."
He said the stories told by Holocaust survivors and their liberators have slowly worn down bigotry and hatred, resulting in generations of open hearts, which "empowers those of us in positions of power -- because even the president can't do these things alone."
Mr. Obama also used the dinner as an opportunity to reiterate the U.S .commitment to Israel, saying, "It's up to us to speak out against rhetoric that threatens the existence of a Jewish homeland and to sustain America's unshakeable commitment to Israel's security."
The USC Shoah Foundation was founded by director Steven Spielberg after he made the movie "Schindler's List." The goal was to create and keep a visual archive of Holocaust survivors. The collection now contains more than 52, 000 testimonies.
The foundation's board has since expanded the mission to include witnesses to other genocides, including those in Rwanda, Armenia and Darfur.
Earlier in the evening, the president spent his time rallying his base at a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee joint fundraiser. He told attendees, who paid anywhere from $10,000 to 64,800 a ticket, that Republicans are the reason for gridlock in Washington. "Their willingness to say 'no' to everything -- the fact that since 2007, they have filibustered about 500 pieces of legislation that would help the middle class, just gives you a sense of how opposed they are to any progress," Mr. Obama asserted.
The fundraiser was at the home of Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn and his wife, Cindy. It was just one of many money stops on what is primarily a fundraising trip and an effort to get out the vote for the upcoming midterm elections.
On tap for the president are four more Democratic events, in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose before he flies back to Washington on Friday.