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Delaware First Lady Carla Markell brings message to the community: You are in charge of your own life


First Lady Carla Markell inspired more than 120 people Saturday when she shared her personal story of how she overcame a childhood with alcoholic parents to become an educated, self-empowered woman committed to empowering others.

Her presentation on “Self-Empowerment” took place at Cape Henlopen High School in Lewes and was part of Beebe Healthcare’s Rock your Life seminar series in celebration of Beebe Healthcare’s 100th anniversary.

“I was lucky because I had someone to talk to; I had a best friend,” she said, adding that a turning point for her was when a friend of her mother’s said she deserved a better life and introduced her to Al Anon. “There, I learned that while I couldn’t control my mother and those in my family who had addictions, I could control my own actions and my reactions to them.”

Mrs. Markell, describing herself as someone with an innate strength, said she had a vision of how she wanted her life to be and so aligned herself with people, places and things that reflected her values and goals. She made friends with good students who treated her the way she wanted to be treated.

“Success brings success,” she said, talking about decision making. “Taking healthy risks give you confidence.”

She said that she also avoided people and family members who used drugs, and instead made good decisions, eventually going to college.

“You don’t have to be a victim,” she said. “If someone has hurt you, do not give them the power to hurt you again. Become what you want to be. I couldn’t choose my parents, so I had to depend upon myself.”

Though she went to the same elementary school as Governor Jack Markell, they got to know each when she was working at Friendly’s, a business she described as highly regarded for a teenager who needed to work. When she and Governor Markell started dating, she said he was the first person who asked her questions about her aspirations and goals.

“He believed in me before I believed in myself.”

Years later, after they married and had two children, Mrs. Markell again found she was facing a new challenge when her husband wanted to run for Governor. She was afraid to be in the public eye, and she was afraid that people would find out about her addicted family.

“It has been the best experience of my life,” she said. “It has given me the opportunity to help people.”

Mrs. Markell is a champion of volunteerism, and also encourages people to help others through mentoring, if they have the time to do so. She, herself, has mentored two boys from elementary school through college, and is still mentoring them.

“If you mentor someone, you cannot let them down as they depend upon you,” she said. “If you don’t have the time to give a life-long commitment, you can still be a tutor.”

During the question-and-answer period, Mrs. Markell encouraged those who are in the school system to support at-risk students by telling them about Al Anon, as well as about other support groups.

“As a child I was invisible, and lucky to have a best friend I could count on. There are invisible children who live in addicted families. Mentoring and empowerment can save lives.”

Responding to a question from the audience, Mrs. Markell said that following her experience at Al Anon, her mother stopped drinking and has been sober for 38 years.

There are two more Rock Your Life seminars planned for Beebe’s 100th anniversary celebration. 

  • Saturday, July 23: Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle! Keynote Speaker: Dr. Ben Brown, Medical Director of the Ornish Reversal Program. The event will take place from 9 a.m. to 12:50 p.m. at Delaware Technical Community College in Georgetown.
  • Sunday, September 18: Champion your Life! Keynote Speaker: Dr. Bob Rotella, world renowned sports psychologist and bestselling author. The event will take place from 1 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. at Heritage Shores Club, 1 Heritage Shores Circle, Bridgeville


  • Pictured here, left to right, Tom Protack, Director of Development for Beebe Medical Foundation; Jan McCarty, a member of the Beebe Healthcare Board of Directors; Leanne Prosser, Coordinator of Beebe’s 100th anniversary celebration; and Delaware First Lady Carla Markell.


Beebe Healthcare is a not-for-profit community healthcare system with a charitable mission to encourage healthy living, prevent illness, and restore optimal health for the people residing, working, or visiting in the communities we serve. It offers services throughout Southern Delaware for residents and visitors, including a 210-licensed-bed hospital, a cancer center, and outpatient facilities providing walk-in care, lab, imaging, and physical rehabilitation services. For more information, please visit us online at Beebe Healthcare.