Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican star who has managed to stay popular in the heavily Democratic state of New Jersey said it doesn’t hurt to be “entertaining” if you are in the public eye. He certainly was entertaining at a Washington Post Live forum at Ford’s Theatre Dec. 5 and the audience constantly broke out in appreciative laughter for his blunt talk and quips. He said he learned a lot from his Sicilian mother who was a force; his Irish father, he said, “was merely a passenger in the automobile of life.” His mother, he said, told him it was better to be respected than loved and he has taken that to hard when critics come after him.

Christie slammed other politicians for “not telling the truth” and taking on hard issues and he said he wished President Obama would use more presidential power to break the stalemate on Capitol Hill. He also joked that he was obviously not one of those people who got on the treadmill at 5 am. when I asked him about the habits of busy, successful people. But he then turned serious about his considerable girth. He said critics have said that his large size makes him unfit to be president. He called criticism of fat people “one of the last vestiges of prejudice and stupidity.” He is definitely not one for mincing words.

Christie was one of seven winners of the Top American Leaders awards given out by the Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership in partnership with Washington Post Live.

Nobel Prize winning scientist Ahmed Zewail, who was born in Egypt but came to the United States in the 1960s, was another winner, on the stage alongside Christie. Zewail used his time in the spotlight to warn that America needs to do more to attract the best and brightest from around the world. The United States needs to reinvigorate its education system and articulate its vision so that around the globe it is once again clearly seen as the best place for those interested in being an innovator or entrepreneur or inventor. He said the strict visa system that was enacted for security measures after Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks have discouraged many excellent minds but he also said he remained optimistic about America’s ability to reinvigorate itself.

See video highlights of all the winners here.