New Jersey is home to some of the most inspiring people you’ll ever meet.
But when the state’s governor, Chris Christie, announced his state would no longer honor the state-sanctioned wearing of “Make America Great Again” hats and other Trump-related paraphernalia at political rallies, he set off a firestorm of controversy.
And the controversy was not over until Christie was forced to resign.
In this exclusive interview with BBC Sport, the governor reveals why he’s a “hard-nosed” and “patriotic” man who loves America and the values he believes in, and how his “Make It Great Again hat” became a symbol of defiance against the political establishment.
In a year where we’re seeing so much political discord and so much hate, you can feel the heat, Chris?
Christie: You know, I’m not ashamed of it.
I’m proud of it, you know?
But I’m also very proud of what America has become.
The country has become a much more diverse and open place.
And we’ve also been very good at showing that we are not the country of bigotry.
So it was a natural thing to do to make America great again.
But I do have a lot of sympathy for people who feel they have a right to wear a Trump hat.
I do think that people should be able to wear whatever they want.
But it is also important to look at the big picture.
What is America?
We’re a country that has stood up for freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from discrimination.
And I think that there’s so much that we all should be proud of.
We’re also a country of equal opportunity.
We’ve got an equal opportunity to be successful.
And that’s why I’m a patriot and that’s the best way to be a patriot.
So I think, yes, we should be a nation of freedom, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to be anti-American or that I’m against democracy.
I believe in it and I believe that it’s a beautiful thing.
So we need to be able…
When you see what is happening in this country, you think, “What kind of a country do I want my children to grow up in?”
But you have to look beyond the headlines.
And you have have to have empathy for the people.
And, you need to have compassion.
And it’s important to understand that we’re all in this together.
And this is America.
We are a melting pot.
And as Americans, we need each other.
And to be honest with you, the more we stand together and we come together, the better off we all are.
We don’t want the government to come in and take us away from each other, we want to be part of the solution.
So, I think we’re just going to have to get used to it.
We’ll get used the more of us that show up and show up together.
The fact that we’ve seen this level of hatred, I can tell you, it’s just a reflection of how far this country has fallen.
You’ve seen the level of hate.
And what we’ve been through.
And just as Americans we’ve got to do everything in our power to get it back on track.
And if we can get it on track, we’ll be better for it.
You know that?
Christie is the governor of New Jersey, which means he’s also the US president.
And in an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, he reflected on the US presidency in the same breath.
But he also gave his take on Trump’s policies, including his “Muslim ban”, which has been widely condemned by human rights groups.
We should have a hard-nose approach, but at the same time, the country has to make it harder to do something like that.
We shouldn’t do it in the name of the American people, which is not the same as trying to impose our values on other people.
It’s like saying to people, “I’m going down the road and I’m doing it in your name.
I don’t care if you don’t like it.
It doesn’t matter to me.”
We have to make sure we’re not going down that road.
We need to make the point to our neighbours, to our friends.
I think you can have that kind of compassion.
The American people are the most compassionate people on earth, you and I. And they will take care of each other if we take care.
We have no right to impose those values on them.
And frankly, it was nice to have the chance to meet with them, you see.
What do you think?
You don’t think people should wear Trump hats and you’re not a fan of the President?
Christie (laughing): I’m no fan of him.
I love him and I love America.
But that is the kind of America