After high-fiving students on the way into the event, he stood before more than 6,500 young people at the Citywest Convention Centre.
Mr Kenny said the world is rapidly changing — sometimes for the better and sometimes not.
“The future is here before me — in your hands,” he told them.
“Young Social Innovators from all over Ireland were thinking of doing things that had never been done before and changing the world for the better.
“I believe in our young people. I believe you can stand on stage with any of your peers anywhere on this planet and more than hold your own.”
Young Social Innovators co-founder Sr Stanislaus Kennedy said the celebration of social innovation here is bound to grow because of young people’s great passion for change — if they are given the opportunity: “What we have done is given them the opportunity to be a voice for change and to make that change happen.”
Sr Stan said young people are changed for life once they became young social innovators because they realise they can make a difference.
“We want this event to grow and grow. Over the next three years we would like 50% of young people to become young social innovators — at the moment around 30% are involved.”
Yesterday students from Portmarnock Community School, Co Dublin, were named the Young Social Innovators for 2016 for their project, Global Citizens Mapping the Future.
A total of 454 social innovation projects were created as part of the initiative, which is supported by Ulster Bank, with 60 selected to go forward for the top title and awards.
One of the members of the winning team, Colin McAndrew, said their main project was an online map for Lesotho, a landlocked country in southern Africa. The team said they chose the project because, in developing countries, governments do not have sufficient funding or resources to map their country — and the map of Lesotho was largely a blank canvas.
“Without proper land boundaries it is easy for land corruption to occur,” said Colin. “To have national recognition for our project is fantastic for us and our school, especially given the high standard of projects this year. We’ll continue to advocate for these issues and hopefully achieve an even greater impact with this project.”
Runners-up were transition-year students from Mount Mercy College, Model Farm Rd, Cork City, for their project, Mother Nature Knows Breast, which aims to change the way their generation views breastfeeding.
The students, Aisling O’Leary, Bishopstown, and Stephanie Braun, Blarney, made a documentary and campaigned to include the issue on the curriculum.
The two 16-year-olds were not surprised that Ireland has the lowest rate, at 55%, of mothers breastfeeding. They found that breastfeeding is still a taboo subject for many.
In third place were pupils from Christian Brothers Secondary School, Mitchelstown, Co Cork, for their project, Farm Safety.