Many years ago, I wrote a letter to Papai Noel (Santa Claus) asking for a bicycle. And I got one. Mino, who lived in a hovel alongside my house, did not. I wrote another letter to Papai Noel, asking for a bicycle for him. Today, I would not ask for a bicycle; I would ask for a good school. It would be a present for him, for his children, and for all of Brazil.
So many years later, this is the request that I would make of the Papai Noel for adults, should one exist: that, on the 25th of December, our population would wake up educated, with an immense collective knowledge of geography, mathematics, philosophy, history.
Our population would awake knowing how to use computers, reading and writing good Portuguese, speaking foreign languages, conversing about literature, understanding art, having tens of thousands of doctors and scientists.
Our population would wake up with collective knowledge as great as our ability for soccer.
With the sum of that knowledge, the educated population would create a potent, modern economy due to the high intelligence content in each scientific and technological product.
Better distribution of wealth would exist both among the persons and among the regions. The cities would be peaceful. The environment, in balance.
That knowledge does not arrive suddenly on Christmas Day, however. Nor is it transportable in the red sack of a little old man carrying presents.
That is why I am wishing for 200 thousand beautiful schools with sufficient space for all the students. All the schools with the necessary equipment, laboratories, computers, televisions, DVDs, satellite dishes, sports fields, libraries, theaters and cinemas.
Without that, the buildings would not be considered schools, and knowledge would not be created or spread. I am wishing that no child would leave school before completing his or her secondary education. And that the 15 million still-illiterate adults would learn to read.
Just as we are the storehouse of the world's best soccer players, Brazil would be a storehouse of scientists, writers, philosophers, intellectuals, doctors, engineers, teachers.
If I had someone to ask, I would, above all, write requesting that Brazil receive, as a present, two million teachers, all of them very well prepared, with many years of study, dedication, the will to work, and love for their profession and for their students. Because it is the teachers who construct the knowledge.
This is why those teachers - those well prepared, dedicated teachers - must also be very, very well paid, loved and respected by the population.
It may seem that, with age, I have grown ambitious: instead of a bicycle for my neighbor, I am asking for a complicated present for all of Brazil.
But Papai Noel comes from Finland. In that country - and I had the chance to see this - it was possible to undertake an educational revolution, guarantee the quality of the schools, treat the teachers well, improve the care of the children.
I discovered that, in the land of Papai Noel, education constructed a country rich in culture, science, technology and economics. This is why I feel I have the right to wish for the same for my country.
I know, however, that it is not possible to receive collective knowledge - or schools with their equipment and teachers - from abroad. The educational revolution will only be made by the people themselves and by their leaders.
This is why, this Christmas, I would like to ask for a new generation of leaders, as the best present for Brazil. Leaders who are committed to transforming the country, educating our people. But that will not be given to us in the form of a present either. There are no presents in politics or in the leadership of countries.
Even less so when it comes to presents from abroad.
Each people must find its own road, define the future it desires, and decide how to use its resources. And the leaders are elected by the people.
I wish, therefore, for each Brazilian to be the Papai Noel of Brazil, electing the leaders that the country needs to make the educational revolution that will change Brazil. And that, thanks to the vote, it will no longer be necessary for a child to ask for a bicycle for his or her poor neighbor.
The present I am requesting is for lucidity and patriotism to take hold of the electorate.
Cristovam Buarque is a professor at the University of Brasília and a PDT senator for the Federal District. You can visit his website - www.cristovam.org.br - and write to him at email@example.com.
Translated from the Portuguese by Linda Jerome LinJerome@cs.com.