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Nationals reflect on MLK, March

WASHINGTON -- It was Aug. 28, 1963, when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made his famous "I Have a Dream" speech during the March on Washington, a demonstration to push for better jobs for all people and help pass better civil rights legislation.

Fifty years later, King's speech has an impact on Nationals first-base coach Tony Tarasco, who heard the stories of the civil rights struggle from his mother and grandparents. His father, Jack Tarasco, worked at a hotel in New York City that was converted into a dorm for black women who went to New York University.

"So he saw the changes from a different perspective," Tony Tarasco said. "So I got two very interesting stories told to me from two different sides."

Tarasco, who is biracial, said King's speech was motivating, and that it put things in perspective -- bringing home the struggles to all Americans.

"[Dr. King] did it in a manner that all people could express how they felt about the situation that was going on in the United States," Tarasco said. "That's why he was such a fantastic man. He was the person who was chosen to deliver that speech on that day. He was able to get across multiple cultures."

Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman was born 21 years after the March on Washington, but he has an idea about the racial tension that existed in '63. When he sees documentaries or movies about the civil rights era, he is saddened to learn that so much racial tension existed in the United States.

"Obviously, some of that [racial tension] still exists, and I don't think there will ever be anywhere where it doesn't exist," Zimmerman said. "I talk about this all the time. It's crazy to watch movies and look at documentaries and really think that the country was like that. It's hard for me to fathom because of the way I was brought up and the way I think things are now. For me, I never really thought about that stuff.

"[The March on Washington] is one of the biggest things to ever happen for civil rights in this country. To change something like that takes someone like Dr. King to ... do something that other people are too afraid to do."

Center fielder Denard Span wasn't born until 18 1/2 years after the March on Washington, but he is aware why the demonstration took place 50 years ago.

"[Dr. King] wanted social equality. That's all he wanted," Span said. "He wanted everybody to be equal. I remember the famous line about his children growing up and wanting them to do some of the things that white people are able to do. Dr. King was one of the guys, along with Jackie Robinson, that helped shape where we are today."

Washington Nationals