SPRINGFIELD TOWNSHIP, Ohio (WKRC) - A local ironworker becomes a national celebrity after President Biden highlighted her during his State of the Union Address. The Springfield Township mother-of-three was flown to Washington and was a cornerstone of the President's address. So, who exactly is this woman, and what the last 24 hours have been like for her?
Her name is Saria Gwin-Maye. She has been a proud member of Ironworkers Local 44 for more than 30 years. Last week, she received a call from the White House.
Saria recalls, “He said, ‘Would you like to come to the White House for dinner?’ I said, ‘Really? Me?’”
The invitation was not completely out of the blue. Saria had met the President last month when he came to Covington to announce the Infrastructure Law's $1.6 billion investment in the Brent Spence Bridge.
“We were talking in the back before we went out,” she said. “And he thought that I had a beautiful personality. He said, ‘That personality really sticks on you!’ I was like, ‘Okay!’”
President Biden spoke of the meeting during Tuesday night’s State of the Union Address.
"While I was there, I met a young woman named Saria," he began. "Saria said she can’t wait to be 10 stories above the Ohio River building that new bridge. God bless her. That’s pride. And that’s what we’re also building, we’re building back pride."
Local 12 spoke with Saria's husband, Jerry Maye, from his crane at his construction job.
“I’m just standing there looking at the TV, like, ‘That’s my wife!’” he smiled proudly. “I feel honored to be married to her before she met the president. So, at least I can say, ‘I knew her before then.’”
At the White House dinner prior to the State of the Union, Saria says she felt like a celebrity, sitting with Paul Pelosi, the Ukrainian Ambassador, and U2's Bono.
“Mr. Bono, he said, ‘You’re the bad A-S-S ironworker!’” Saria laughed. “And I was like, ‘Yes sir, I am.’ And he said, ‘I got to get a picture with you.’ And then Mr. Pelosi said, ‘I want a picture, too!’ I’m like, ‘Oh my God!’”
Saria says Bono, the other guests, and the President were fascinated with her story of being a 30-year ironworker, and her passion for her union, and for advancing the ironworker profession for African American women. Later, the President gave her a presidential challenge coin.
“I teared up,” she said. “And he said, ‘You earned this!’ And I said, ‘Thank you very much. Thank you so very much.’ He told me, ‘You go out there, and you encourage,’ he said, ‘You get the attention of the teenagers coming in,’ he said, ‘You do that!’ And I said, ‘Yes sir, I will.”
A couple of other highlights from Saria’s trip to Washington: the First Lady told Saria she loved her boots, Bono said he wants to come to Cincinnati to see the Brent Spence Bridge before and after it’s complete, and Saria sat with Tyre Nichol’s mother and told her she was in her prayers. Saria went on to say the experience at the State of the Union Address made her feel like all of her hard work was not in vain.