That was evident in his inauguration before the Supreme Constitutional Court, which is loyal to the army and recently dissolved the Islamist-dominated parliament; swearing-in ceremonies usually occur in the parliament. Morsi will name a cabinet in coming days, but executive powers over the armed forces, intelligence services and the national budget will be held by the army until a new constitution is drafted.
"We aspire to a better tomorrow, a new Egypt and a second republic," Morsi, 60, said during the ceremony, broadcast live on state television. "Today, the Egyptian people laid the foundation of a new life: absolute freedom, a genuine democracy and stability."
Egypt's path toward democracy has been messy, and often bloody, but the specter of Morsi standing on a podium in front of the national flag became an instant icon for an Arab world in search of a new identity after 16 months of upheaval.
The hectic Egyptian capital was inlaid with images that only months ago would have been inconceivable: The nation's first Islamist president was saluted by the head of the ruling military council who for decades supported Hosni Mubarak's persecution and arrests of thousands of Brotherhood members, including Morsi. Across the street from the court's Pharaonic architecture, Mubarak, sentenced to life in prison for complicity in the deaths of hundreds of protesters during last year's upheaval that ousted him from power, lay in a military hospital suffering from heart ailments.
The new leader pressured the military in his inaugural address later at Cairo University, promising Egyptians that the revolution would not rest until Morsi was granted full presidential powers. Such pronouncements from a conservative Islamist who grew up in the fields of the Nile Delta thrilled much of the country and defined the fierce political struggle between Morsi and the generals.
But the uncharismatic U.S.-educated engineer showed a degree of political pragmatism he is likely to need in the sensitive task of rolling back the military's authority. With Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the military council, sitting before him in the university auditorium, Morsi repeatedly praised the army and credited the generals for allowing him to assume power.
"The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has kept its word and fulfilled its promise," he said. "The elected institutions will come back to take their role, and the Egyptian armed forces, Egypt's great army, will return to protecting the borders of the country." He said the military would remain "strong and solid" and he would keep "good relations between this institution and the people."
That tone irritated activists and revolutionaries who have blamed the army for crackdowns and human-rights abuses over the last 16 months. But it showed in stark terms Morsi's transformation from an opposition figure to a head of state attempting to appeal to revolutionary voices while appeasing the traditional powers suspicious of Islam's influence on public policy.
"That's the price he had to pay to win," said Ahmed Aggour, an activist. "He officially told the army: 'I will be your puppet, I'll protect your interests, and ensure your safety.' That's why Tantawi was clapping."