If the coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we are nothing without community. From communities adapting quickly to lockdown, providing aid to sheltering neighbours to teams of scientists working together to fight back against the virus, none of has been achieved in the fight against coronavirus has been achieved alone.
One person who has personified this community spirit so completely is the footballer, Marcus Rashford. In early June Rashford launched a campaign to ensure the provision of free school meals in England would continue throughout the summer holidays. Having relied upon free school meals and foodbanks as a child, Rashford wrote to the government to argue that food poverty is as deadly a pandemic as the one we are facing right now. Rashford called for the government to extend the free school meals scheme over the summer to protect as many children as possible from going hungry. With the help of over 160 thousand retweets, and the support of many high profiles figures the government was forced into a U-turn and Rashford’s campaign was successful.
Crucially, every element of Rashford’s campaign was centred on community, and coming together to protect the most vulnerable members of our society. From making the best of the online community on platforms like twitter, to emphasising our collective responsibility for our societys’ childrens’ health and wellbeing. Strikingly, he argued "Political affiliations aside, can we not all agree that no child should be going to be hungry?" It should go without saying that hunger should not be a political pawn, but in the face of party politics things that should be sacrosanct all too often come up for debate. Marcus Rashford urged a coming together that transcended ideological differences to do what is morally right, and ultimately, he won.
For aspiring young leaders, much can be learned from Marcus Rashford and his success. Above all the idea that ethical and moral leadership should always be routed in community and the amplification of marginalised voices. Though he became the figurehead of a national campaign overnight, Marcus Rashford’s approach was remarkably understated. He worked hard to focalise the attention on the immediate needs of a vulnerable group, and he capitalised on empathy and the sharing of personal experience to do so. Unlike in the political posturing of our elected leaders in recent years, there were no flashy stunts or expensive gimmicks. Just words and the power they have in drawing us together and reminding us of what is truly important. Ultimately, it is the job of a good leader to ensure that the everyone understand and believes in the common goal. Nobody wants a child to go hungry, and Rashford reminded those in power of that fact. Once he had achieved his goal he tweeted, “Just look at what we can do when we come together, THIS is England in 2020.” He’s right, but it is also important to remember that competent, community led ethical leadership helped to score this goal.