"I know that the American dream does not end when it comes true," Satcher said at a White House ceremony.
"Under your leadership, an old-fashioned, genuine, honest-to-goodness, all- American dream story will go forward to lead America into the 21st century, stronger and healthier than ever," said President Clinton. He said Satcher's greatest contribution would be guiding people to live healthier lives.
Satcher, an Alabama native, had been director of the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since 1993. He fills an office that has been vacant for more than three years, since Dr. Joycelyn Elders was forced to resign.
The surgeon general's post has been a bully pulpit for public health issues, with past holders focusing on the dangers of AIDS, smoking and venereal disease.
Satcher, appearing in the traditional surgeon general's uniform for the first time, said he will emphasize early childhood health, opposition to teen smoking and drugs and the need for exercise and good nutrition.
"When it comes to public health, what unites us is greater than what divides us, and we must not forget that," he said.
Satcher was confirmed Tuesday despite opposition from some conservatives in the Senate. His supporters say Satcher was never in serious jeopardy, and he was approved, 63-35.
"I want to especially applaud the Senate for conducting such a lively and healthy debate," Satcher said Friday to laughter.
"We have some complex issues in public health and I think it's good to have those issues on the floor," he told reporters after the swearing-in.
By LAURA MECKLER, Associated Press Writer. ©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed