Last week, I announced Iíd be retiring from the Senate when the Senate ends its current session. Thatíll be sometime in late December depending on when we finish appropriations bills and other pending Senate business.
My reasons are varied, but basically itís a family decision ó one that Iíd planned to make a few years ago, but, as many of you know, Hurricane Katrina delayed it.
As I recently listened to my pastorís sermon, he reminded us what the Bible says in the Book of Ecclesiastes, that there is a time for everything.
Though Iíd heard those verses before in words and song, that day the message really spoke to me as a 66-year-old man, trying to decide just how long I should stay in public life.
And, after much prayer, Iíve decided this is the right time for me to retire from the Senate, to spend more time with family and to pursue other professional opportunities.
With all my heart, I thank the people of Mississippi. Youíve all been wonderful to me and my family. Youíve enabled me ó a pipe fitter and school teacherís son from Pascagoula ó to live the American dream, to do things Iíd never thought Iíd be able to do.
But, more importantly, together weíve helped make Mississippi a better place. Today Mississippians have before us more economic opportunity than ever before. And, weíve rebounded from the worst natural disaster in American history with grace and resilience that have impressed the nation and the world, enabling them to finally see the real Mississippi.
As Iíve said, Hurricane Katrina is central to timing my retirement decision. Well before the storm, my wife Tricia and I had planned to retire after my term ended in 2006. Then Katrina hit. I was stunned in more ways than one. Not only was our beloved home in Pascagoula wiped away, my plans to retire were in question, too.
I struggled with the decision of whether to run for another term last year, or retire as I had originally planned. Yet in the months following Katrina, as the magnitude of the recovery effort sank in, I just couldnít leave the Senate. Mississippians werenít quitting, and neither could I. It wasnít the season to break in a new Senator. More than ever, Mississippi needed its Senate influence to help get the unprecedented federal support for our storm recovery.
Surely, we have a long way to go in our rebuilding. But, from a legislative standpoint, Iím satisfied that Mississippi has all the major federal resources and programs we need for our ongoing renaissance. Mississippi has some of the best local, state and federal leaders weíve ever had, and Iím confident theyíll continue leading us in the right direction.
As for whoíll be my successor, thatís up to Governor Haley Barbour and the people of Mississippi. The Governor will appoint a capable Mississippian to serve as Senator before a special election takes place. Iíve told Governor Barbour Iíll be glad to offer my advice. But, the decision as to who our next Senator will be is not mine.
My advice to Mississippians as we select a new Senator is simply this: Smaller states like Mississippi need strong Senators. With that said, there are two paths to power in the Senate ó through leadership positions or through decades of seniority. For generations Mississippians have understood this, and weíve followed kind of an unwritten formula whereby as one Senator had seniority, the other was building it. Weíd be wise to continue that.
With Senator Cochran well positioned with seniority, our new Senator should be someone who is young, capable of staying in the Senate and pursuing either of those two paths to Senate influence.
This is not my last column. We have about three weeks of Senate business on which Iíll report to you. But, I wanted you to know why Iíve decided to retire. The wisdom of Godís word resounds. To everything there is a season, a time for everything. This is the time for both Trent Lott and Mississippi to start anew.
Senator Lott welcomes any questions or comments about this column.
Write to: U.S. Senator Trent Lott, 487 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 (Attn: Press Office) or Email