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The Reagan myth topples a King

I come with this blog post not to bury Reagan but to praise a great American who's getting a raw deal here, a man named Thomas Starr King:

Not everyone's pleased that Reagan is being put on a pedestal, particularly the descendants of Starr King, who helped keep California in the Union during the Civil War.

"Unfortunately, people say, 'Who was Thomas Starr King?' " said Ginny King Supple, Starr King's great-great-granddaughter, from Los Angeles. "He never got the public recognition after the fact. He was very well-known back in the 1800s and early 1900s. So it is disturbing."

She voted for Reagan, but she said: "From a historical perspective, Thomas Starr King had a lot more to do with the state of the state of California, as opposed to President Reagan. I'm not coming down on Ronald Reagan. He was basically a great man in many ways, but the history of California lies with Thomas Starr King. That's why he was chosen."

Starr King gave thousands of speeches, up and down the state, railing against slavery, poverty and oppression. Even though the state had banned slavery, many Southerners who had moved to California wanted slaves and threatened to split the state and form their own republic. Starr King corresponded with Abraham Lincoln during his speaking tour

Ironically, Starr King is getting 15 minutes of fame by getting dumped for the Gipper, but in the long run it would be good for more Americans -- not fewer -- to know about this man who battled slavery and oppression, the type of person we need more of in 2009. Throwing him down the memory hole for the 1984-elected Reagan is emblematic of a nation with Attention Deficit Disorder -- a nation that already has a lot of things that honor the 40th president but now little left to honor a forgotten American King.