Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford has described the ‘surreal’ moment he sat down for a Zoom conversation with former United States president Barack Obama.
Rashford has emerged as a leading campaign voice for change in the UK over the past 12 months as a result of his incredible work to tackle child food poverty, while he has also overseen schemes to increase access for children to books and reading.
The meeting was set up by international publisher Penguin.
“Marcus, I think is way ahead of where I was at 23. I was still trying to figure it out,” Obama said.
Rashford himself said, “It’s quite surreal isn’t it? I’m sitting in my kitchen in Manchester, speaking to President Obama. But, immediately, he made me feel at ease.
“It wasn’t long before I realised just how aligned our experiences as children were in shaping the men you see today – adversity, obstacles and all. I genuinely enjoyed every minute of it. When President Obama speaks, all you want to do is listen.”
The conversation was focused on how young people can drive positive change in society.
“If you give someone a helping hand at a young age, they’ll go on to do things that even they didn’t think or believe it was possible to achieve or accomplish,” Rashford explained.
“For me, being in sports, I just knew that my life could change very, very quickly and if I wasn’t mature enough or at a certain level in my own head, then it makes stuff like fame and bits like that even more difficult to cope with.”
Obama added, “When you look at the history of big social movements and big social change, it’s usually young people who initiate this.”
An important part of improving the lives of children and young people is by giving access to books, something Rashford himself has previously said he benefitted from growing up.
“Through books you can grow yourself whichever way you want. Rather than somebody keep telling you to do this and do that, books allowed me to just go out and do it my own way,” he said.