Obama was born and partly raised in Hawaii.
The president says he remembers stories about the Belgian-born priest's work on the island caring for people suffering from leprosy and the stigma attached to it. With millions worldwide suffering from disease, especially HIV/AIDS, Obama called on the world to follow Father Damien's example by "answering the urgent call to heal and care for the sick."
Damien was born Jozef De Veuster. The Roman Catholic priest was beloved by the lepers he ministered to for 16 years before dying of the disease himself in 1889.