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Then we have those conscientious objectors at the State Department who are balking, noisily, at being sent to Iraq. Hey, you could get killed over there! Which is a possibility our troops face every day. But the striped-pants brigade, or at least its more raucous elements, seem to think they deserve a pass.

Do you think these characters have ever read the oath they took? Or noticed they were applying for the Foreign Service?

True conscientious objectors are allowed an exemption from combat, and should be. But they're not allowed to pick and choose which of their country's wars they will participate in. Forget wars of choice; we now have foreign policies of choice. What ever happened to an honorable course like just resigning?

- Paul Greenberg, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

No historical moment could ever capture in its entirety the promise of American equality. But if you had to choose just one date, you might go with Nov. 7, 1967. It was on that Election Day in Cleveland 40 years ago that Carl B. Stokes, great-grandson of a slave, became the first black mayor of a major American city by defeating Seth Taft, grandson of a president.

Today, the National Conference of Black Mayors has close to 50 members. At a time when a black U.S. senator is running for president, the election of a black candidate to a Rust Belt mayor's office may seem like decidedly small potatoes.

In 1967, it was huge.

It was a closely fought race that went down to the wire, and when the ballots were counted, history had turned on its hinge: Voters black and white had chosen to put an African-American at the helm of a largely white U.S. city. "I can say to you," Mr. Stokes told his followers, "that never before have I known the full meaning of the words 'God Bless America.'"

Then, as now, the journey to a more perfect union was far from over. But 40 years ago this week, it took a powerful step forward.

- Jeff Jacoby, The Boston Globe

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