Barack Obama's nomination as Democratic party's presidential candidate, making him the first black American to head a major political party ticket, marks one of the most rapid rises in American political history.
Entering politics in 1996 with an unopposed election to the Illinois state senate, Obama, 47, burst onto the national stage in 2004 with an electrifying keynote address to the party forum in Boston calling for an end to America's divisive politics.
"There's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there is the United States of America. There's not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America; there is the United States of America," said the son of a black father from Kenya and white mother from Kansas.
There was no looking back for Obama after that. In the afterglow of the Boston convention he made it to the US senate with a wide margin just four years after losing badly to Bobby Rush - a Chicago Democrat and a former Black Panther - in his first attempt to enter the US Congress,
But Obama had set his sights higher. Just three years in the Senate, he formed a presidential exploratory committee in January 2007 and one month later launched his presidential campaign on the steps of the old Statehouse in Springfield, Illinois.
Facing him was an array of seasoned contenders including his later vice-presidential pick Joe Biden, 2004 Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and of course the formidable Hillary Clinton, viewed as the party's "inevitable" choice.
Slowly eroding the former first lady's large lead in opinion polls, Obama cracked Clinton's aura of inevitability with a victory in the Iowa caucuses this January. She came in a surprising third, with 29 percent, just behind Edwards, who had 30 percent.
Clinton bounced back into the race with a win in the New Hampshire primary three days later, but she did not quite recover from the Iowa shock. Winning some and losing some more, she stuck on till the very end before conceding the race to Obama in June.
Obama has come a long way from Hawaii where he was born in 1961. He was only two when his father left Hawaii to pursue a degree at Harvard University and later returned to Kenya. Obama saw him only once again when he was 10.
Obama later lived with his mother and stepfather in Indonesia until age 10, when he moved back to Hawaii to live with his maternal grandparents.
In his 1995 autobiography, "Dreams from My Father", Obama describes a troubled adolescence in which he struggled with his biracial identity. He acknowledges that he used marijuana and cocaine.
After high school, Obama attended college in Los Angeles, California, and New York before working as a community organiser on the south side of Chicago, Illinois, from 1985 to 1988.
He attended Harvard Law School, where he became the first black president of the prestigious Harvard Law Review, and returned to Chicago after graduating in 1991 to work as a civil rights lawyer and teach constitutional law. There he met his future wife, Michelle Robinson, a Chicago native.