Joe Biden called for unity and an end to misinformation as he was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States on Wednesday.
Mr Biden urged an end to the political polarisation that has escalated tensions in American politics.
“We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural against urban, conservative versus liberal.”
Opening his 20-minute address, Mr Biden hailed democracy as the antidote to the divisiveness that characterised much of the previous 4 years under Donald Trump.
“This is America’s day,” Mr Biden said.
“This is democracy’s day. A day of history and hope, of renewal and resolve.”
In defending America’s democratic legacy, Mr Biden also alluded to the danger that misinformation poses to American democracy today.
“We must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured.”
Mr Biden flagged the fight against the pandemic, inequality and the climate crisis as key issues for his presidency.
“Folks, this is a time of testing. We face an attack on our democracy and on truth, a raging virus, growing inequity, the sting of systemic racism, a climate in crisis, America’s role in the world,” said Mr Biden.
“Any one of these would be enough to challenge us in profound ways, but the fact is we face them all at once, presenting this nation with one of the gravest responsibilities we had.”
In his first few hours in office Mr Biden has already signed 17 executive actions, reversing many of Mr Trump’s more controversial policies.
Mr Biden has rejoined the Paris climate accord, ended the travel ban on some Muslim-majority countries and ended the emergency declaration to build a US-Mexico border wall.
To counter the wreckage from the pandemic, Mr Biden is mandating masks on federal property, extending eviction and foreclosure bans and directing the Government to rejoin the World Health Organisation.
“Some of the executive actions I’m going to be signing today are going to help change the course of the COVID crisis,” Mr Biden said.
“We’re going to combat climate change in a way that we haven’t done so far and advance racial equity and support other underserved communities.
“These are just all starting points.”
Mr Biden’s swift executive action indicates his desire to push forward his extensive legislative agenda.
Democrats hold a majority in the House and a 50-50 split in the Senate, with Vice-President Kamala Harris holding the tie-breaking vote. This will help Mr Biden avoid many of the political obstacles that have prevented past Presidents from enacting legislative reform.
“We have turned the page to a new chapter in the history of our democracy and I am full of hope,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Mr Biden is the oldest US President at 78 years of age. He is joined by Kamala Harris, who is the first black, Asian and female Vice-President.
Ms Harris was sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor – the first Latina justice of the Supreme Court – who also administered the Vice Presidential oath to Mr Biden in 2013.
“Together, we shall write an American story of hope, not fear, of unity, not division, of light, not darkness,” Mr Biden said at the end of his address.
“A story of decency and dignity, love and healing, greatness and goodness.”
Breaking with tradition, Mr Trump did not attend the ceremony.
Mr Trump quietly left Washington on Wednesday morning after having pardoned 144 people in his final hours in office.
Mr Trump has not formally conceded his defeat.