The topic was draft counseling, and Fran Donelan, of the American Friends Service Committee, expected about 50 people to show up for the daylong seminar held yesterday at the Johns Hopkins University.
Instead, 80 arrived at 9 a.m., filling the room she had reserved in the Eisenhower Library.
"I'm amazed at the number of folks who've turned out for this," said Ms. Donelan, the Middle Atlantic Region Director of the Friends Service Committee's Youth and Militarism Program. "It's a shame it takes bloodletting to do this."
Draft counselors were commonplace during the Vietnam War, when anti-war protesters routinely marched across campuses and draft resisters sought advice on how to perform non-military service.
The draft was abolished in 1973, but Ms. Donelan, and many others in the room yesterday, believe its revival is likely if the war in the Middle East does not end quickly. Someone, Ms. Donelan said, must be ready to advise the young men -- not women, under law -- who want help.
About 40 people a day call her office with questions about military service. Some fear a draft. Some are in the service and want to get out. Some want to establish that they are conscientious objectors -- a process that requires compiling written statements, including notes of conversations, that show the men do not believe in war.
In December, 65 people sat through a similar training session. Others will be scheduled. The goal, Ms. Donelan said, is to create a network of counselors around the state.
Yesterday, those taking notes as Ms. Donelan spoke ranged from students to the elderly. They included lawyers, homemakers, social workers and an electrician. They had come from Baltimore, nearby counties, Virginia, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore.
"I'm here because it's affecting me," said a University of Maryland student, who asked not to be named. "I believe there will be a draft."
Tony Topolski, from Wicomico County, said he wants to be a counselor because "this is a rich man's war. It has nothing to do with our rights or anything."
Ms. Donelan began by telling the group what draft counseling isn't: It is not a program meant to stop people from joining the service, she said. Counselors listen to people's concerns. They ask questions to help people define how they feel about the military. They offer information on Selective Service regulations and all options available. Sometimes they have to refer clients to a lawyer.
One woman, the mother of a draft-age son, said she attended because people need information.
"Kids don't have a chance to think through what their feelings are," said the woman, who did not want her name used. "I want to be able to help kids think this through with clarity."