In New York, though, he basked in the rapt attention of hundreds of Columbia students and even jettisoned a prepared speech.
"Speeches kill off creativity," he said. "I'm going to speak from the heart."
And he did.
"Welcome to the club of states who don't turn their back on the sick and the poor," Sarkozy said, referring to the US health care overhaul signed by President Barack Obama last week.
From the European perspective, he said, "when we look at the American debate on reforming health care, it's difficult to believe".
"The very fact that there should have been such a violent debate simply on the fact that the poorest of Americans should not be left out in the streets without a cent to look after them... is something astonishing to us."
Then to hearty applause, he added: "If you come to France and something happens to you, you won't be asked for your credit card before you're rushed to the hospital."