I remember the lottery well. I was mid-way through my second year at Duke Law School. I was working in the law library at the time, and everyone was talking about the lottery, especially the first year students. The law school had already been decimated by the draft, and what was left were guys with JAG deferments, broken down football players like me, women, and a few guys who just hadn’t gotten drafted.
I had a I-Y deferment, having failed the draft physical in the spring of 1968 just before I was to graduate from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Flunking was a fluke as I had played all kinds of sports and was in great shape, but a piece of cartilage had popped in my knee when doing knee bends at the physical. The I-Y deferment simply meant that I was "not physically qualified under current standards".
We were all clear that "current standards" could change, and it was like living/walking on thin ice. You never knew what might happen, and the American troop levels in Vietnam just kept increasing. At the same time, guys from my hometown of International Falls, Minnesota were getting killed and wounded in Vietnam. I read the hometown paper and knew a number of guys from both high school and college who were reported "in country". One didn’t have to watch the evening news to know how grim things were.
A very close friend of mine had gotten drafted out of the Peace Corps, and was at a firebase near the DMZ. He wrote me and told me to go to Canada rather than end up in the war. And going to Canada would not be hard for me, as it was only 150 yards north of my family’s home.
So they held the lottery, everyone watched and listened, and to my amazement my birthday came up at No. 343. (Friends were incensed that I had both the I-Y deferment and very high number). Suddenly I had no more worries. The pressure was off, and my life changed.
I also remember very clearly the demonstrations the following spring, against the U.S. invasion of Cambodia. Classes were cancelled, lots of people went to D.C. for the protest marches, and the whole thing became so disruptive that the Law School allowed students to take exams at the end of the summer.