New Jersey Governor Chris Christie named 'Father of the Year'

(CNN) -- Chris Christie, the tough-talking Republican governor of New Jersey, got to show off his softer side Wednesday as he accepted an award for being "Father of the Year."

"I get recognized and criticized and praised for all kinds of other things. But the most important thing I get to do every day is to be a father to my four children," he said. "And it is the most lasting and important thing that I'll ever do with my life."

He also showed off his sense of humor, entertaining a George Washington Bridge joke and cracking wise about his kids being suspicious of the award.

The Father's Day/Mother's Day Council, a nonprofit that raises money for charity, hosted the event in New York City. Other honorees included former NFL star Curtis Martin, Bloomingdale's CEO Tony Spring, and designer Vince Camuto.

Christie said both he and his wife, Mary Pat, were surprised when they first found out about the award--as were his kids.

"They just blankly stared back at me and said, 'Really?'"

As the audience laughed, he added: "I felt very warm about that."

Christie frequently talks about his four children--Andrew, 20; Sarah, 18; Patrick, 13; and Bridget, 10--during his public appearances.

The governor thanked them Wednesday for putting up with the inconveniences of public life. Christie shared a story about how his youngest child, Bridget, once told him her least favorite words in the world are, "I hate to interrupt, governor, but-"

"If they hate to interrupt, why do they?" she asked, according to Christie.

Only one of his kids was able to attend the event, however.

"I think the rest of them are probably silently protesting. They still don't really buy this," he said. "But, my NEW favorite child is here today."

He pointed to his daughter, Sarah, who's starting as a freshman at Notre Dame this fall.

"You have no idea how big this is going to be for you," he said jokingly. "The other three kids are now a distant fourth, fifth and sixth--even though we only have four children."

Some attendees of the luncheon poked fun at the governor. Norah O'Donnell, co-host of the CBS program "This Morning," introduced Christie, sarcastically praising him for his "small personality and his modesty."

"But his biggest fault perhaps may be that he never really speaks his mind," she said.

O'Donnell also managed to slip in a joke about the bridge scandal that roiled his administration earlier this year.

"As governor of New Jersey--you know that state right across the GW Bridge--Chris Christie has taken on..." she said, before pausing as the audience laughed and Christie glared at her with a smirk on his face.

But Christie later took the jest in stride.

"Norah, it is now administration policy that we call New Jersey--when we're in New York--the place on the other side of the Lincoln Tunnel."

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