‘It’s surreal, isn’t it?’ Marcus Rashford meets Barack Obama for Zoom talk

Former US president and activist footballer discuss drive to give back to their communities

Former US president Barack Obama and Manchester United footballer and activist Marcus Rashford meet via Zoom.

Former US president Barack Obama and Manchester United footballer and activist Marcus Rashford meet via Zoom.

 

Marcus Rashford has just had an unexpected experience. “It’s quite surreal, isn’t it? I’m sitting in my kitchen in Manchester speaking to President Obama,” says the Manchester United footballer, who earned worldwide recognition off the pitch in 2020 for his work to help end child poverty in the UK.

The two social activists – Obama spent three years as a young man as a community organiser in Chicago – have been talking on a Zoom call, arranged by Penguin books, that will be shown on the publisher’s YouTube channel at 2pm on Friday, May 28th.

The pair talk about their shared experiences, including being raised by single mothers and feeling driven to give something back to the communities they were raised in. The power that young people have to make change and the importance of giving back to your community are among the themes of Obama’s recent memoir, A Promised Land.

Last year Rashford successfully campaigned for the UK government to extend a food-voucher scheme for school children to include the summer holidays. Since then he has formed a child-poverty taskforce and with the chef Tom Kerridge launched Full Time Meals, a food-education and cooking project designed to equip all children with a vital life skill.

The former president commends him for it. “A lot of the young people I meet – including Marcus – they’re ahead of where I was when I was 23. They’re already making changes and being positive forces in their communities,” he says.

Obama explains how other young people could follow the footballer’s example: “Even if you do something positive on a small scale, that’s making a difference, and it’s the accumulation of people doing positive things over time that makes us a little bit better with each successive generation.”

The pair also talk about the impact of reading on their lives. “Through books, you can grow yourself in whichever way you want,” says Rashford. “Books allowed me to do it my own way.” The footballer’s first book, You Are a Champion: How to Be the Best You Can Be, was published yesterday. It draws on stories from his life to show readers aged from 11 to 16 about positive thinking, mental resilience and the ability to navigate adversity.

Their conversation, moderated by the author and broadcaster June Sarpong, will also be available as a podcast.

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