Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States along with his Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday.

Harris became the first woman vice president of the United States. She is also the first woman of colour and the first woman of South Asian descent to occupy the prestigious office. Biden, meanwhile, took over as the oldest US president in history at a scaled-back ceremony in Washington that was largely stripped of its usual pomp due to the coronavirus pandemic and security concerns following the January 6 storming of the US Capitol by supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump.

In his first presidential address, Biden, who took the oath of office from Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, assured Americans that he would provide a positive example to the world under his leadership as president.

“This is America’s day...this is democracy’s day.... A day of history and hope,” the president said. “Today we celebrate triumph of not a candidate but the cause of democracy. Democracy is this hour democracy has prevailed.”

The newly sworn in president also spoke about the violence at the US Capitol. “Here we stand, just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work on our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground,” he said in his address. “It did not happen; it will never happen. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever.”

He also thanked his predecessors of both parties for their presence at the ceremony. “I thank them from the bottom of my heart...” he said. “And I know the resilience of our Constitution and the strength, the strength of our nation...”

He asked Americans who did not vote for him to give him a chance to be their president as well. “To overcome these challenges to restore the soul and secure the future of America requires so much more than words,” Biden added. “It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy: unity. 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.”

While acknowledging the challenging times ahead for the country as it continues to battle coronavirus, Biden said, “Folks, this is a time of testing.”

Ahead of the inauguration, Biden tweeted: “It’s a new day in America.”

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Biden has reportedly done away with the traditional inaugural balls, and will instead participate in a television event called “Celebrating America”, reported NBC News.

The proceedings began with an invocation by Reverend Leo J O’Donovan, a close friend of the American president’s family. Singer Lady Gaga, who campaigned for Biden during the 2020 US presidential election, sang the national anthem.

Earlier in the day, Donald Trump left the White House for the final time as president of the United States, skipping Biden’s formal inauguration ceremony. After he walked out of the White House, Trump told reporters it was a “great honor” to serve as 45th president. He said it has been the “honor of a lifetime” and that he “just wanted to walk over and say goodbye”.

Following Biden’s swearing-in, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated him. “My warmest congratulations to Joe Biden on his assumption of office as President of the United States of America,” he tweeted. “I look forward to working with him to strengthen India-US strategic partnership. My best wishes for a successful term in leading USA as we stand united and resilient in addressing common challenges and advancing global peace and security.”

Modi also spoke about the ties between the two countries, which he was “based on shared values”. “We have a substantial and multifaceted bilateral agenda, growing economic engagement and vibrant people to people linkages,” he tweeted. “Committed to working with President Joe Biden to take the India-US partnership to even greater heights.”