Sen. Trent Lott Lott missed last year's annual breakfast, because he was stuck in Washington, fighting for hurricane relief money. Thursday morning, he summed up his return to Morning Call, and the coast's post Katrina recovery efforts with two words.
"We're back," he said, sounding like the little girl in the movie "Poltergeist" when she saw ghosts in her television.
Seconds later, the smile on Lott's face disappeared. It was one of the rare times where he actually choked up.
"I was afraid I would get a little emotional," he told chamber members.
The senator looked across the room and saw the people from his home state who bravely stood up to Katrina's fiercest punch.
"I want everybody on the gulf coast to know how proud I am of all of us, and what we went through together," he said. "But more importantly, what we're going to do together in the future. Maybe not this year. Maybe not next year. Maybe not three years from now. Maybe not five years. But at some point, we're going to look back and say, you know, this is an incredible thing that we've done here."
Much of the senator's speech focused on hurricane recovery efforts. He talked about the nearly four billion dollars that will be coming to the gulf coast to help with housing issues. To Lott, Katrina actually changed Mississippi's image around America.
"It's like the live oak trees," he said. "They're weathered, they're beaten, they lost some limbs, but they're still standing, by george."
And so is the senator. During his speech, he brought up Morning Call 2002, when the national media was in town to cover that talk. That was the year Lott made comments about Strom Thurmond that forced Lott out as the Senate's Majority Leader. Those comments nearly ended his political career. Yet four years later, he's the Senate's minority whip. When he told Morning Call members we're back, he just as easily could have said, he was back.
"I do have fun looking at some of my colleagues in Washington," he said, "You know, they thought I was dead. But I was Lazarus. Somebody said, 'Oh no, you're better than Lazarus. He was only dead four days. You were dead four years.'"
Before his speech ended, the senator admitted his original plan was to leave Washington at the end of the year, and move back to Pascagoula. But the hurricane destroyed his family home. So he talked with his wife, ran again, and won another six year term on Capitol Hill.
"I really didn't want to quit anyway," he joked. "I love what I'm doing. I still feel like I'm young enough and ornery enough to make a difference."