Like cats, we must have nine lives because Brazil keeps giving us “once in a lifetime” opportunities. The latest came at lunch yesterday with education leaders in São Paulo. To my growing amazement & delight, a representative of the state education laid out his aspirations to create a network of community colleges inspired by American models. He asked how we could help. What he wants is exactly what we are eager to give him: connections with appropriate Americans and the chance for institutional linkages. I would not have aspired to this in my more grandiose imaginings.
The Brazilian side has the determination, the resources and the desire to work with us. Having all those things at one time and in one place is rare. All we need do is say yes and I will not let this pass.
This is the opportunity to develop in São Paulo the kind of phenomenally successful working relationship that we have with CAPES and MEC in in Brasília. We have the opportunity to be present at the creation, when the institutions are forming that will influence the lives of millions of Brazilians and – again – create and enhance relationship among Americans and Brazilians that will affect our relations for a generation. Louis Brandeis famously said that the states are the laboratories of democracy. Brazilian states are not exactly like ours, but the laboratory of democracy can work here too. A success in São Paulo can be adapted and emulated by others. São Paulo has the resources to be the leader. We will help.
There is the old saying about limited vision, that a person cannot see the forest because of all the trees. This is so big that we almost cannot see it for what it is. It requires that we deploy our “new” paradigm of leveraging our influence by imaginatively helping our Brazilian friends. It is a win all around. We join in their dreams. They achieve their aspiration while satisfying those of Americans eager to get more involved in Brazil’s growing opportunities. I have no doubt that we will find lots of Americans and American institutions who want to work with this.
I wonder how many more “opportunities of a lifetime” Brazil will give me before I am done here. Usually you just get one. It is scary. I always say that it is better to be lucky than smart. But how long can luck hold?