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A self-described “old, walking history book” says he’s “hopeful for the country”

February 1, 2017

Ray Bellare, 69, is traveling to Houston from San Diego.

“I’m going to Houston to relocate and live there for a while and do a business. I’m planning on opening up a Louisiana-style restaurant. My nephew is already a very good cook of Louisiana food, and I know the business aspect of the venture. We’re going to take a stab at it and see what happens.

“We’re at a stage of controversy right now with the election of the new president and some of his ideas. We have a saying: ‘Change what you can, accept what you can, and be smart enough to know the difference.’ We can’t change that Trump is president. So we may as well accept the fact that he is, and see what he has to offer.

“I’m like an old, walking history book. I’ve been through the civil rights movement. I was born in ’48. We did the sit-ins, and we did the protests. I grew up in an all-black neighborhood and went to an all-black high school and a predominantly white college in Louisiana. I joined the Air Force. It’s the best thing I ever did with my life. I spent 20 years with the Air Force and retired, and after that I traveled for 18 years in foreign countries.

“I was accepted better overseas than I am here in the states because I am an American. It didn’t matter if I was black or white, I was an American. America is the strongest country in the world, and no matter what all these other countries are saying, everybody wants to be American.

“I see America in a position of: We’re nice, and we should be nice to everybody. While you’re being nice to everybody, everybody’s taking advantage, and taking away your status. That’s the downfall of Americans, that we’re nice. We should speak their language when they come to our country, we should conform to their religion when they come to America. I just don’t see Americans being Americans the way that I grew up. Being proud of America. They don’t have the Pledge of Allegiance anymore; you can’t say the Lord’s Prayer, all these things aren’t being taught.

“I think Trump is a businessman more than he’s a politician, and because of that, I already see some good things happening. I’m not a supporter per se, but there are things that he does, doesn’t seem to make sense, but in the long run will work out. In a democratic society, there’s no such thing as one person having a say. We have checks and balances. I’m not worried that he’s going to be so crazy that he’s going to be able to do anything he wants to. He might offer, suggest, say he’s going to do all these things. Even the best presidents in the world aren’t able to do all the things they want to do.

“I’m hopeful for the country, but we’ll have to really work hard for it.”

AP Tampa correspondent Tamara Lush is traveling on Amtrak as one of 24 writers for its residency program for creative professionals. During her 15-day trip, she’s interviewing people and filing occasional installments for this Tales on a Train project, as well as working on her next romance novel.

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