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Dr. Matthew Clark is the head of a state institution for mentally retarded children. Jean Hansen, a former music teacher anxious to give her life some meaning, joins the staff of the hospital. Jean, who tries to shelter the children with her love, suspiciously regards Clark's stern training methods. She becomes emotionally involved with 12-year-old Reuben Widdicombe, who has been abandoned by his divorced parents. Jean defies Clark by sending for the child's parents when Reuben stubbornly refuses to obey orders. Mrs. Widdicombe, however, concurs with the doctor's decision that it would be damaging for the boy to see her. As she leaves, Reuben catches sight of her and chases her departing car; and the incident so emotionally upsets the boy that he runs away from the school. Clark returns him the next morning, whereupon Jean, realizing her mistake, offers to resign. Clark, however, suggests that she remain on and continue her preparations for a Thanksgiving show in which all the children will participate. On the day of the show, Reuben's father arrives to take his son to a private school; but when he hears Reuben haltingly recite a poem and then respond to the audience's applause, he understands his son's desperate need to achieve something for himself.