WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama offered a bit of wisdom to a ballroom filled with celebrities, political insiders and journalists: There are a few things in life harder to find and more important to keep than love.
"Well, love and a birth certificate," he quipped at Saturday's black-tie White House Correspondents' Association dinner, poking fun at the so-called birther movement, which questions whether the president was born in the United States.
"I happen to know that my approval ratings are still very high in the country of my birth," Obama joked.
The president then took aim at Jay Leno, the comedian headlining the dinner, saying the talk-show host was "the only person whose ratings fell more than mine."
But Republicans were the butt of many presidential punch lines.
"Or as Sarah Palin calls it, the socialized media," he added.
Leno later picked up on the same theme, saying the president isn't as aloof as some critics claim.
"He loves to socialize -- health care, car companies," Leno said, naming industries where the Obama administration has intervened.
On a serious note, Obama acknowledged the vast problems facing the Gulf Coast, which is threatened by an oil spill that could be of epic proportions. He planned a trip to the area Sunday for a firsthand assessment of efforts to contain the massive crude oil leak from an offshore drilling rig operated by the oil company BP.
Among the 3,000 guests attending the annual gala were celebrities Chevy Chase, Alec Baldwin, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dennis Quaid, the Jonas brothers, Justin Bieber, Jessica Simpson, Michael Douglas and Steven Spielberg.
Mingling with the crowd were political notables, such as former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and White House senior adviser David Axelrod.
At the dinner, the White House Correspondents' Association introduced students who received college scholarships. Several journalists were also honored with awards for their work.