Marcus Rashford, in addition to being a Manchester United and England superstar, is using his platform to help those who are less fortunate.
Rashford led a campaign to end child food poverty last year, during the coronavirus pandemic, and successfully lobbied the British government to keep providing free school meals during the holidays.
Earlier this year, he started a book club to encourage disadvantaged children to read more.
After all of his hard work, the 23-year-old can count former US President Barack Obama among his admirers.
Obama praised Rashford for being “a lot further ahead than I was at 23” during a Zoom call hosted by Penguin publishers.
“They’re already making changes and being positive forces in their communities” Obama said speaking about the young people he meets.
“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.”
Obama and Rashford were participating in a virtual meeting to talk about the impact that young people can have on society.
They both talked about how important it is for people in positions of power to give back to their communities, as well as the positive impact reading can have, as it has in their own lives.
Rashford’s campaign to end child hunger in the United Kingdom resulted in a $736 million (£520 million) government program to help 1.7 million vulnerable children.
He’s done it while also being one of Manchester United’s most important players, contributing to the club’s second-place finish in the Premier League and runner-up finish in the Europa League.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Rashford received an MBE for his services to vulnerable children.
Rashford’s personal experiences have helped him become an excellent example of someone in a position of prominence providing a service to those in need, according to the 44th president of the United States.
“From what I’ve read about what Marcus is doing,” Obama explained, “he’s taken his own experiences and realized: ‘Well, look, I’ve now been blessed. I now have the good fortune of being this prominent footballer and people pay attention to what I say. How do I give back? How do I take what I know about living in modest means, not having enough to eat all the time — there are kids like that who are feeling that same way — what can I do for them?’
“And like Marcus, we all find our own paths to that service. But if enough people do that, that’s how progress gets made.
“Marcus is a good example of somebody who was passionate at a sport, excelled in it, it gave him a platform and now he’s looking for new challenges alongside it with still being one of the best in his sport.”
Apart from his professional football career, Rashford has volunteered extensively in his community to help build the confidence of the next generation, something he wishes he had when he was younger.
“I see in the younger kids that they are a lot more confident, they speak a lot more freely,” he said.
“And all I want to do is promote that.” Protecting the next generation, and by that I mean giving them the voice that they deserve, because many times they do have a voice, but they don’t realize how powerful it is, nor do they realize how powerful their opinions are.
“So a lot of the time, I’m just there to listen, and I always try to make changes and try and do things that my community wants just to give them a little push in the right direction. I genuinely feel like if you give someone a helping hand, at a young age, they’ll go on to do things even they didn’t think or believe was achievable to accomplish.”
Both Obama and Rashford credit their personal development to their passion for reading.
Obama’s mother was the one who “implanted” a love of reading in him when he was a child. He also remembers a church rummage sale, where he acquired a large number of books, which he read and grew to love.
Rashford, on the other hand, did not learn to read until much later in life.
He recalls receiving a book from a psychologist when he was around 17 years old and discovering his love of reading at that time.
And, according to the United star, there is no better way to keep your mind active as a footballer with so much down time in between games and training.
“For me being in sport, I knew my life could change very, very quickly, and if I knew I wasn’t mature enough or at a certain level in my own head, then it makes fame and bits like that even more difficult to cope with,” Rashford — who describes it as “surreal” talking to the former U.S. President — said.
“I got a book passed to me by a psychologist, that was the first book I ever read. And just from then, I started learning through books, you can grow yourself in whichever way you want. And for me, as the type of person I am, rather than somebody keep telling me to do this or do that, books allow me to do it my own way.”