President Obama told major studio representatives assembled at DreamWorks today that Hollywood has made the world a better place even people know nothing else about the U.S.:
Believe it or not, entertainment is part of our American diplomacy. 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,” they know what you’re talking about. Hundreds of millions of people may never set foot in the United States, but thanks to you, they’ve experienced a small part of what makes our country special. They’ve learned something about our values.
We have shaped a world’s culture through you. The stories that we tell transmit values and ideals about tolerance and diversity and overcoming adversity, and creativity that are part of our DNA. And as a consequence of what you’ve done, you helped shape the world’s culture in a way that has made the world better.
They might not know the Gettysburg Address, but if they’re watching some old movie, maybe Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner or The Mary Tyler Moore Show or Will and Grace and Modern Family, they’ve had a front row seat to our march towards progress.
Obama did gently chide industry folks about gun violence on screen:
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. Now, earlier this year, leaders from this town sat down with Vice President Biden to talk about what Hollywood could do to help keep our kids safe. This was in the wake of Sandy Hook. And those conversations need to continue. The stories we tell matter. And you tell stories more powerfully than anybody else on the earth.
But I want to make clear, even as we think long and hard about the messages we send, we should never waver from our commitment to the freedom that allows us to tell those stories so well. Protecting our First Amendment rights are vital to who we are and it’s also good business. Because in the global race for jobs and industries, the thing we do better than anybody else is creativity.