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Joe Biden was sworn in as president of the United States on Wednesday, offering a message of unity and restoration to a deeply divided country reeling from a battered economy and a raging coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 4,00,000 Americans.
Standing on the steps of the US Capitol two weeks after a mob of then-President Donald Trump's supporters stormed the building, Biden called for a return to civic decency in an inaugural address marking the end of Trump's tempestuous four-year term.
"To overcome these challenges, to restore the sou,l and secure the future of America, requires so much more than words. It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy: unity," Biden, a Democrat, said after taking the oath of office.
"We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this – if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts."
The themes of Biden's 21-minute speech mirrored those he had put at the centre of his presidential campaign, when he portrayed himself as an empathetic alternative to the divisive Trump, a Republican.
Saying there was "no time to waste," Biden signed 15 executive actions shortly after entering the White House on Wednesday afternoon to set a new course and overturn some of Trump's most controversial policies.
The orders included mandating masks on federal property, halting the withdrawal from the World Health Organization, rejoining the Paris climate accord and ending a travel ban on some Muslim-majority countries.
Biden told reporters in the Oval Office that Trump had left him "a very generous letter," but he would not disclose its contents.